Misleading Imagine Broadband Advertising

First Published – November 4th, 2005

Via the Value Ireland Forum, it was brought to the attention of Value Ireland that the current advertising campaign for Imagine Broadband was misleading, and causing confusion for one of our visitors, and likely to confuse others also.

Given our slogan of “Better purchasing decisions through better information”, Value Ireland decided to follow up and investigate.

The basis of the comments that we received were three-fold.

  1. That the advertising of a broadband product costing €9.99 for 20 hours usage per month is not a true broadband product. The accepted definition of broadband used amongst most other companies, and the general public, is that broadband is an always on, always available, internet product. (Note 1).
  2. That once you went to the Imagine website, you only then discovered that you had to sign up for the Imagine Telephony package as well, at a minimum cost of €27.99 per month. Therefore, your minimum cost for 20 hours of broadband per month was actually €39.98. This fact was not illustrated at all in any of the Imagine Broadband advertising.
  3. Finally, there were other “extras” which were necessary to be purchased in order to avail of the 20 hours broadband product which were also not mentioned in the advertising. This included the requirement to rent a router from Imagine Broadband for €2.99 per month, taking the total cost of 20 hours of broadband to €42.97 per month.

As a result of our investigations, we too believed that the Imagine Broadband advertising was misleading and was likely to cause confusion for consumers. They did mention that “Terms and Conditions Applied” to the offer, but Value Ireland believed that the fact that the 20 hours broadband product would cost a minimum of €32.98 more than advertised was not sufficient to be hidden within the Terms and Conditions.

We subsequently submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI). The detail of our complaint was as has been detailed above.

This complaint has now been upheld by the ASAI, who concluded “The Code of Advertising Standards requires that an advertisement should not mislead by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise. It also requires that if the price of one product is dependent on the purchase of another, the extent of any commitment required of consumers should be made clear.”

Follow Up – November 11th, 2005

During this week, Value Ireland has noted the changes to the Imagine Broadband advertising as a result of the upholding of the complaint made to the ASAI.

The key change made was to highlight the fact that the €9.99 offer that they are advertising is for 20 hours of broadband.

There is also the addition of 3 lines of very small print at the bottom of the TV advertisement, which Value Ireland presumes is further Terms and Conditions.

Value Ireland believes that this advertising is still misleading and does not address in any satisfactory manner the second and third points of the original complaint.

As a result, we have submitted a further complaint to the ASAI, specifically highlighting again these two points.

To be asked to pay €42.97 minimum for a product that you see advertised on television for €9.99 is false and misleading advertising, and does not allow consumers to make “better purchasing decisions through better information”.

Value Ireland will keep you updated on the progress of this issue.

Final Update:

I can’t remember when I received the actual final update on this issue, but the result was that the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland do not oversee any advertising on internet websites owned by the companies themselves. So, I can say anything I like about ValueIreland.com on this website, but I can’t pay for advertising on another site, or on the radio, tv or newspapers that says the same thing.

Note 1 – Definition of Broadband
The definition of broadband in Ireland as being an always on, always available internet product is backed up by the Office for Internet Safety, and the Governments Broadband internet website itself.

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